New Paltz schools cut pre-kindergarten, group forms to save middle school clubs

School Activities Are Vital to Education (SAVE) is a New Paltz Middle School organization made up of teachers, students, parents and community members that are trying to raise $7,060 to reinstate all middle school clubs that are being eliminated from the budget. Pictured above are New Paltz Middle School students working on material for their upcoming fundraisers. Photo by Lauren Thomas

It turns out pre-kindergarten, not JV sports or class sizes, got pruned back in New Paltz’s final school budget. At last Wednesday’s meeting, Board of Education members agreed to a $50.12 million plan that would delete junior varsity sports from existence, merging them with the high school’s varsity program. But at an emergency meeting held on Tuesday morning, the board voted 5-1-1 to delete the Pre-K program, reinstate JV sports and an almost full-time elementary library media specialist position that was on the chopping block.

“We decided to hold an emergency meeting because there was a lot of controversy [about what to cut from the budget] at the last board meeting,” said Superintendent of Schools Maria Rice following Tuesday’s meeting. “Every board member was there to vote [on Tuesday] and they looked at opportunities for children within the education program, as well as a well-rounded extra-curricular program. We reinstated JV sports because it spoke to the largest number of students in regard to after-school activities, of which there are hundreds of children involved. I’m saddened in one sense about the elimination of the Pre-K program, but it provides greater opportunities for others.”


The Pre-K program comprises 16 students in one classroom. Rice said that eliminating Pre-K also allowed the district to reinstate an elementary library media specialist, which will keep library programming in the 21st century. “Our library offers students amazing programs, such as virtual field trips, which would have had to be significantly reduced if we had to share one librarian between two buildings,” Rice said. “Now we are able to reinstate the majority of those programs.”

The $50.12 million budget will raise the tax levy by 3.4 percent. That budget only requires 50 percent voter approval to pass, since it conforms to the tax cap law. Voters can weigh in on the budget during June 12’s public hearing to be held at 6 p.m. at New Paltz High School. Voting will take place on June 19 from noon to 9 p.m. in the gym at New Paltz Central High School.


How the Pre-K discussion went down last week


During last week’s meeting, school board members could not come to a decision on whether or not Pre-K should be cut in the budget voters will see in the ballot box. A vote to cut Pre-K failed with 3-3 split. Trustee Bob Rich — the tie-breaking vote — was absent from the meeting due to illness.

However, because Pre-K was included in Superintendent Maria Rice’s proposal, the program stayed in the budget by default. That’s something that really irked board Vice President KT Tobin.

“Wow. That would be so rude to call it on a technicality,” Tobin said. “Can we just keep talking and try to find something?”